Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik March 28, 2017 - 1:10 pm

Independent evaluation of Nunavik hockey program offers another view

“A higher level of evidence is needed to be definitive"

SARAH ROGERS
The Nunavik Girls Midget Nordiks girls are competing this week in the Ottawa-area Sensplex Girls Hockey tournament—their last tournament, unless the program secures new funding. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NUNAVIK NORDIKS)
The Nunavik Girls Midget Nordiks girls are competing this week in the Ottawa-area Sensplex Girls Hockey tournament—their last tournament, unless the program secures new funding. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NUNAVIK NORDIKS)

A professor of kinesiology and physical education has launched an independent evaluation of the Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program to offer another “viewpoint” on Joé Juneau’s well-known hockey program.

The evaluation comes in response to a recent decision to cut almost half the program’s $2.2 million annual funding, provided through Nunavik’s Ungaluk crime prevention fund over the last 11 years.

The cut essentially ends the NYHDP’s select program, which sent hockey teams south to participate in annual tournaments.

John Cairney, a professor in the faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto, heard about the program cuts on a local radio newscast that ran an interview with Juneau.

“What in particular caught my attention, as a researcher, were a couple of comments he made, in terms of the amount of time, from his perspective, that the evaluators had spent observing the program,” Cairney said. “It sort of raised a red flag with me.”

Cairney reached out to Juneau and offered to conduct his own independent, self-funded evaluation of the program. Juneau invited Cairney to come up and observe the final training camp hosted in Inukjuak last week.

The original evaluation, prepared by Goss Gilroy Inc, found the NYHDP wasn’t meeting key criteria: community building and promoting school attendance, noting it found “no causal link between the program and crime prevention.”

“I suppose my biggest point of criticism is that the definitive kind of causal statements around the crime prevention aspect of the program,” Cairney said. “To me, that’s a question that can’t be adequately or solely answered by the methods that they used.

“A higher level of evidence is needed to be definitive.”

Cairney isn’t questioning the methodology evaluators used but he thinks the conclusions they put forward were stronger than their data supported.

He acknowledges that type of qualitative and evaluative research is hard to do, for example: trying to connect playing hockey with crime prevention.

But there are technical skills, friendships made, teamwork and civic engagement at work.

“To me, that’s the stuff that should be measured,” he said. “That’s what should be evaluated, because that’s what the program is all about.”

Makivik Corp. declined to comment on Cairney’s evaluation.

For his part, Juneau said he respects the decision Ungaluk committee members made, although he disagrees with the report’s findings.

He said he doesn’t think Cairney’s report will reverse the decision to cut funding, but Juneau hopes it will offer another point of view, one that could help him secure funding from another organization.

Cairney agrees.

“I don’t necessary think our report is going to change anyone’s mind, but I would hope for at least some that are watching this, that we can provide a different perspective, a different picture of what we saw,” he said.

Cairney expects to have the first draft of his completed review done by the summer.

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