A Joliette, Que., couple is getting a refund after they had to buy a $42 ticket to a performance of the Nutcracker ballet for their three-month-old baby.

After the couple's story was featured on CBC Montreal's Daybreak Thursday morning, Nutcracker production company Les Grands Ballets Canadiens said it would refund the cost of the baby's ticket. 

The company later told the family it would pay them back for all the tickets purchased. 

It also said it is revising its policy to now allow children under the age of 2 into its performances for free.

Where the story begins

Jacques Lareau and girlfriend Sophie Paquette arrived at Place des Arts in downtown Montreal for a Dec. 30 performance of the Nutcracker with three of their four children in tow — 6-year-old Cassandre, 4-year-old Alexandre and their infant son, Colin.

Colin was strapped to his mother in a baby carrier, fast asleep. He was brought along because Paquette was nursing.

And so Lareau and Paquette were surprised when a member of the Place des Arts staff told them the baby would need a ticket to attend the ballet, as per the venue’s policy.


Les Grands Ballets Canadiens puts on the Nutcracker every year. Its spokesperson said it has to abide by the venue's admission policies. (John Hall/Grands Ballets Canadiens)

“I was with the kids. Since it was Santa Claus who brought us the tickets, I didn’t want to make a scene,” Lareau told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty.

So he paid the $42 and the family enjoyed the performance.

Once he was home, Lareau checked the website of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the company responsible for selling the tickets.

He said that the company's policy requires tickets for children aged 2-12, but nothing indicated that a child under 2 years old would need one.

Ticket policies for babies

Lareau said that it never crossed his mind that he would have to pay up for baby Colin, since tickets for children that age aren’t required on airplanes, the Bell Centre or at a number of other family-friendly events.

On top of that, Lareau said Colin didn’t even get a seat for his ticket — the baby had to remain strapped to Paquette for the duration of the play.

So he sent an e-mail to the venue’s public relations department, which promptly replied with a link to a page buried deep on the Place des Arts website that explained the rules.

Marc Blondeau, president and CEO of Place des Arts, said the policy relating to young children is a longstanding one and is enforced as a safety measure.

“For security reasons, we need to know how many people are in the room,” he said.

Still, he said he was sympathetic to Lareau’s disappointment.

“I can tell you I totally understand his situation, but I think Place des Arts needs to ensure the best possible conditions for everyone,” he said.

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens spokesman Olivier Le Galliard said the company generally discourages bringing children of such a young age to its performances, but that it understands it's not always possible.

The company said children under the age of 2 would be admitted to its performances for free provided they sit on the lap of a parent.