Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada's West Coast, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.
But observers say it is indefensible and more evidence of the way the government is undermining its scientists.
"There is no question in my mind it's muzzling," said Jeffrey Hutchings, a senior fisheries scientist at Halifax's Dalhousie University.
Researchers, who used to be free to discuss their science, are now required to follow a process that includes "media lines" approved by communications officers, strategists and ministerial staff in Ottawa. They vet media requests, demand reporters' questions in advance and decide when and if researchers can give interviews.
Environment Canada now even has media officers in Ottawa tape-recording the interviews scientists are allowed to give.