Justice Louise Charbonneau sentenced Tariq St Croix Thursday to five years in jail and three years probation for "brutally" stabbing his ex-wife on New Year's Eve two years ago.
St Croix pleaded guilty to breaking and entering and aggravated assault in N.W.T. Supreme Court. The Crown prosecutor and defence lawyers jointly recommended a five-year sentence.
"It is luck that St Croix isn't facing a homicide trial," Charbonneau told the courtroom.
On the evening of the attack, Marina St Croix was with her kids on their balcony waiting for fireworks to begin, when Tariq St Croix appeared outside of their residence. Tariq was on probation for previously assaulting her and was legally prohibited from visiting Marina unless she permitted him.
Marina, who was pregnant at the time, told Tariq to go away, but he broke into the house by smashing a window, then armed himself with a steak knife. Marina was holding her 18-month-old infant in her bedroom when Tariq stabbed her in the face, neck and torso in the presence of her two kids. The eldest child grabbed the infant for protection.
Tariq repeatedly yelled "you don't love me" before the steak knife broke, lodged in her stomach. Marina tried to flee to the balcony to call for help when Tariq dragged her back in, kicked her face, then fled.
Marina asked that the publication ban on her name be lifted, as she no longer wanted the violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and children to be hidden from sight.
Mistrust of the system
Marina gave a victim impact statement before sentencing. With her sister standing next to her, and Tariq merely meters away, she described how the crime has changed her life.
"On the Sunday before the week of my fate, I watched a video on highway 16. Trudeau's words were that Canada failed Indigenous women and that the MMIWG report would not be shelved. Yet, I stand ready to flee, when my only protection between him and me is three years probation."
"We live in a society that would rather have my race live in a boat that no longer floats," she continued. "Life is easy for those who fail to see, so society covers their eyes with coins to let the violence breathe.
"I see too many dead women and children that the RCMP fail to find. So I must admit I cannot trust the broken system, this time.
"Welcome to court in Canada when you are Indigenous," Marina concluded.
Marina said she cannot trust a broken legal system that fails to protect Indigenous women and children from their abusers.
Justice Charbonneau told the court she "can understand that a court order would not appear adequate, given the crime took place when two probation orders were in force."
Judge 'bound' by joint submission
Tariq St Croix was initially charged with attempted murder in addition to the crime he was convicted of, but the greater charge was withdrawn when he pleaded guilty to breaking and entering and aggravated assault.
In a previous court appearance, Charbonneau acknowledged that the five-year sentence was on the "very, very low end."
Judges are bound by a Supreme Court of Canada ruling to accept joint submissions unless they can prove that the sentence is "unhinged" from the circumstances of the crime.
"The question I have to answer is not to see if a five year sentence is fit," but if the sentence would break down the administration of justice, she said Thursday.
Despite her reservations,Charbonneau said she was certain that Crown and the defense lawyers gave careful consideration to their submission.
Tariq has one year, nine months and one week remaining in his sentence. Upon his release, he is required to leave the N.W.T.
The court heard that Tariq had been the victim of an "extremely" violent upbringing. As a child growing up in St Lucia, his father had abused his mother repeatedly. Tariq's mother assaulted him and his siblings, which was described as torture at times. "Miraculously," Tariq has rekindled his relationship with his mother, the judge told the court.
However, the circumstances of his difficult upbringing "cannot excuse the extreme violence of the crime," Charbonneau said.
He is likely to face deportation, given the severity of the crime along with his existing criminal record. Originally from St Lucia, Tariq has permanent residency in Canada.
He is qualified as a protected person, which means an additional step is required for deportation. Whether he will be deported depends on if the danger he poses in Canada outweighs the risk he may face if he returns to his home country.
However, he is likely to lose permanent residency status.