Survivor of brutal N.W.T. knife attack goes public to raise awareness about spousal abuse

·4 min read
The Yellowknife courthouse. On Friday, the victim of a brutal knife attack called out 'broken systems' for failing to protect Indigenous women and children from domestic violence.
The Yellowknife courthouse. On Friday, the victim of a brutal knife attack called out 'broken systems' for failing to protect Indigenous women and children from domestic violence.

(Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)

The victim of a brutal attack by her ex-husband says she wants the cycle of violence perpetrated disproportionately against Indigenous women and children to end. She's calling for greater protection, and denouncing "broken systems" which continue to fail them.

Marina St. Croix was the victim of the "worst form of domestic violence," said N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice Louise Charbonneau on Thursday in a Yellowknife courtroom.

Marina asked the court to lift the publication ban barring mention of her name because she does not want her experiences as a victim of domestic assault to be hidden. The Crown prosecutor confirmed the publication ban was lifted.

Two years ago, on New Years Eve, Tariq St. Croix broke into the home of Marina, his ex-wife, and stabbed her repeatedly with a steak knife. Tariq yelled "you don't love me" before stabbing her while she was holding her infant. Her other child took the infant so they could be safe.

St. Croix continued to stab Marina, who was pregnant, until the steak knife he was using broke, stuck in her stomach. Marina ran back on the balcony, before Tariq dragged her back inside, kicked her in the face, and then fled the scene.

St. Croix has a history of violence against his ex-partner. He has previously been convicted for multiple assaults against her, as well as failing to comply with an emergency protection order taken out against him.

When the assault took place, he was on probation for those crimes.

Tariq has pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

'I breathe the crime'

In court, Marina St. Croix described how the violent assault has altered her and her family's life.

While recovering from her injuries, Marina gave birth. She described the labour as incredibly painful and requires a follow up surgery.

"I sleep in the same space as it happened. I breathe the crime," Marina told the court. She said she does not feel safe at home anymore, the place where the assault took place.

The fear of premature death looms over her. She worries that her abuser will break out of prison to inflict violence on her.

"I will forgive Tariq, but I need to break the cycle of violence."

The start of his freedom marks her captivity, she said.

I need to break the cycle of violence. - Marina St. Croix

In detail, she talked about how her mental health, economic stability, and the wellness of her children has deteriorated.

"Even though I have done nothing wrong, I feel guilt," she told the court.

Marina asked to have the publication ban barring the mention of her name removed because she no longer wanted the violence experienced by Indigenous women and the impact it has to remain hidden.

She rejected "this environment where we're not supposed to tell anyone."

She added that she wanted to see justice for the Indigenous women and children who are disproportionately the victims of violence, calling for harsher sentences.

Indigenous women more likely to be victims of violence

The Crown prosecutor said that Indigenous women are 3 times more likely to be the victim of intimate-partner violence compared to non-Indigenous women.

He added that spousal violence is 10 times higher in the territories than in southern Canada.

According to the Victimization of Indigenous Women and Girls report by the Canadian Justice department, 40 per cent of Indigenous women reported being physically or sexually maltreated before the age of 15, compared to 29 per cent of non-Indigenous women.

The report also said that more than half of Indigenous female victims feared for their lives, compared to just 29 per cent of non-Indigenous female victims.


Recommneded sentence at 'very, very low end': judge

The Crown and defense made a joint submission that recommended the accused serve five years in prison, with time served, plus three years of probation. He would also not be allowed to travel to the Northwest Territories and must leave the North upon his release.

Charbonneau acknowledged that the sentence was at the "very, very, low end."

Tariq is originally from St. Lucia and is likely to face a deportation order given his criminal record and the severity of this crime.

Tariq has permanent residency in Canada, however, and is qualified as a protected person, which means an additional step is required for deportation.

He will likely lose permanent residency status, but whether he will be deported depends on whether the danger he poses in Canada outweighs the risk he may face if he returns to his home country.

Charbonneau said he expected to deliver a sentence on February 25th.