Montreal ordered to pay damages to 2012 student protester who lost use of his eye

A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered the City of Montreal to pay $175,000 in compensation to Francis Grénier, who lost the use of his eye during the 2012 student protests over tuition fee hikes.

Francis Grénier was injured by fragment from stun grenade that struck him during Maple Spring student protest

Francis Grénier was struck by a fragment from a stun grenade police used while breaking up this protest in front of the Loto-Québec building in downtown Montreal on March 7, 2012.

A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered the City of Montreal to pay $175,000 in compensation to a young man who lost the use of his eye during the 2012 student protests over tuition fee hikes.

Francis Grénier, a former student at CEGEP de Saint-Jérôme, was injured by a fragment from a stun grenade that struck him in the face while he was protesting outside of Loto-Québec headquarters on Sherbrooke Street on March 7, 2012.

"I'm very pleased with the judgment given that it's already five years we've been at it," Grénier told CBC Wednesday evening, two days after the judgment was rendered. "I think that being injured while taking part in a protest is not logical. Every one should have the right to voice their opinion and have the right to speak out." 

Grénier, who was 22 at the time, was leaving the scene after police ordered protesters to disperse when the projectile hit him in the face. 

Disoriented and struggling to stand up, he was transported by ambulance to Montreal's Hôtel-Dieu hospital and required surgery the same night.
This photo of Francis Grénier was posted on social media after he was injured during student protests. (Facebook)

In his testimony, Grénier explained that he was unable to see out of that eye after he was struck, and he never regained his sight, even after medical intervention.

"He maintains his condition is permanent, and he will never regain his eyesight like before," Justice Steve Reimnitz wrote in his ruling.

As a result of the incident, Grénier told the court he now jumps when he hears loud sounds, such as fireworks, that remind him of stun grenades going off.

Grénier said the injury has also affected his career path, his studies, his aspirations to become a visual artist and his personal relationships.

Grénier, who is now 27, used to be a visual arts student, he told CBC.

"It's an incident that had a big impact on my life because without part of my vision, it's very hard to create something with my hands that other people will appreciate," Grénier said, adding that he now studies art history instead.

At one point, he attempted to commit suicide, which he said was linked to the "consecutive failures" that followed his injury.

Criticism for Montreal police

In his ruling, Reimnitz criticized Montreal police officers for insisting on interrogating Grénier and on obtaining his medical file the same night he was awaiting surgery at the hospital.

"The insistence was apparent and difficult to explain at such an inopportune moment," he wrote.

He concludes that the way the officers acted "could only be explained by the desire to direct the investigation to put into question the fact that it was an RBBG (rubber ball blast grenade) that hurt the plaintiff."

Francis Grénier lost his vision in one eye after being struck by a projectile during a protest like this one, staged by Quebec students seeking a tuition-fee freeze in 2012. (Smizzle Mallizzle/Canadian Press)

Reimnitz also slammed the officers for claiming that the injury was caused by a piece of asphalt, saying that the police made the decision to use the grenade "without doing all the tests beforehand to ensure it would be used safely."

In his order to the city to pay $175,000 in damages, Reimnitz said the money is meant to compensate Grénier for pain and suffering and other losses that are not of a financial nature.

"The court takes the young age of the plaintiff into consideration, the fact that he aspiring to work in the visual arts field and the fact that he can no longer work for the business of his father," he wrote.

With files from Radio-Canada