Safety concerns keep Christmas choir out of mall, Walmart

A children's choir in Fort St. John has been told it can't sing Christmas carols at the local mall or Walmart over insurance issues and space concerns.

Fort St. John children's choir turned away from local businesses because of space and insurance issues

The Alleluia Children's Choir's $2 million of liability insurance wasn't enough to get them into Fort St. John's Totem Mall. (Christine Kress)

A children's choir in Fort St. John, B.C., has been turned away from singing Christmas carols at two major businesses over safety issues.

In 2016, Heidi Jones and a few other singers added caroling to their shifts as volunteers with the Salvation Army's annual Christmas kettle campaign and immediately saw results.

"The donations that came in during the time that we were there were amazing, way more than normal," she told CBC Radio West host Sarah Penton.

This year she hoped to take things further by inviting members of the Alleluia Children's Choir, which she directs, to sing for the Salvation Army on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

The Alleluia Children's Choir had hoped to sing alongside volunteers at the Salvation Army's annual kettle campaign in Fort St. John. (Laura Meader/CBC)

She thought everything was set up for the group to perform at the Walmart on Dec. 16, but as the day got closer she started running into issues.

"All of a sudden it was 'what, who's coming here, how many children?'" she said.

As it turned out, there were worries about the safety of having a choir perform on a high-traffic shopping day.

Anika Malik, the senior manager of corporate affairs for Walmart, said it was the size of the choir that was the concern.

"We are happy to donate our space to the Salvation Army and if they want to have some children come sing with them, then we absolutely welcome that," she said.

"It would just have to be the right amount of children." 

'I don't know what's so dangerous about singing'

Malik said they would want to have the total group be ten or less, whereas Jones was hoping to have about twenty.

The plan then changed to going across the street to sing at the Totem Mall, but mall management said the choir's liability insurance wasn't high enough.

"Their cap was $5 million and we only have $2 million," Jones said.

"I don't know what's so dangerous about singing."

The choir has now arranged to join the Salvation Army outside the local Safeway, but Jones is worried corporate culture has gotten in the way of the spirit of the season and wonders if there might be room for more flexibility in future years.

"I don't know who makes all these rules, but when it comes down to it, who is it benefiting?" she asked.

"Is there a liability with having 20, 30 kids maximum, in a little cluster singing while people shop?"