The following story contains graphic details that some readers may find disturbing.
Marina St. Croix, victim of a brutal 2018 New Year’s Eve stabbing, told the NWT Supreme Court Thursday that she’s stopped trusting the “broken Canadian system.”
At the sentencing hearing for her former husband Tariq St. Croix, Marina said even though her estranged partner is barred from re-entering the territory once released from jail, “We fail to mention that I too will lose my right to mobility.”
In delivering her ruling, Justice Louise Charbonneau said she understands that, from Marina’s perspective, the court order to protect her must ring hollow as Tariq was under two separate court orders in 2018 intending to protect her when the stabbing occurred.
Following a joint recommendation from the defence lawyer and Crown prosecutor, Tariq was sentenced to five years in jail on Thursday. After deducting the two years and 56 days the offender has already spent a the North Slave Correctional Centre (NSCC) and applying the standard 1.5 credit for pre-trial custody, Tariq has one year, nine months and one week left to serve of his sentence.
His jail term will be followed by three years of probation. In addition to counselling, he will not be permitted to re-enter the territory or make contact with the victim or her four children for the duration of his probationary term.
Reading her ruling to the court, Charbonneau acknowledged the limited discretion granted to sentencing judges when faced with a joint submission from lawyers. She noted that the sentence is on the very low end for what she calls a very serious crime. In considering the photos submitted as evidence, Charbonneau said the injuries and the enormous amount of blood at the residence are “very disturbing to look at,” and “brings home the savageness and brutality of the attack.”
In a victim impact statement read to the court earlier this month, Marina said she wants her name to be known and the details of the crime to be widespread so the public can be confronted with the brutality facing Indigenous women.
“I’m angry because I want to see harsher sentencing to those who harm Indigenous women and children,” she said.
She told the court that while she currently goes by St. Croix, she plans to change her and her children’s last name. She acknowledges no father for her youngest two children.
Baby put in jeopardy
Charbonneau described again the events of the night of the stabbing. Marina, intending to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks with her children stayed home. When she saw Tariq outside, she called to him from the balcony to go away. He instead broke a window, entered the home, armed himself with a steak knife and went upstairs to stab Marina in the face, chest, left, shoulder and stomach. She was pregnant at the time and holding her 18 month old baby while her 11-year-old daughter watched. The attack only stopped when the blade separated from the handle and remained lodged in the woman’s stomach. She sustained serious injuries, physically, emotionally and financially.
Marina gave birth to the baby in her womb despite the stabbing, though she said labour was extremely painful. She told the court that she had to drop out of nursing school while she continued to deal with the trauma and support her children who, like her, suffer nightmares of the attack that occurred at the home in which they continue to live.
The offender was originally set to go to trial on charges of attempted murder. He instead pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated assault to keep the victims from having to testify.
Charbonneau told the court “it is a matter of pure luck that he is not facing sentencing for a homicide.” She said she has dealt with a number of cases where a single stab was all it took to cause death – it often is a matter only of centimetres.
As Tariq is a permanent resident in Canada, but not a citizen, defence lawyer Kate Oja said he could be deported back to St. Lucia, an island in the Caribbean. As a convicted criminal, Tariq loses his permanent residency immediately. However, Tariq has been designated a protected person by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The designation, akin to refugee status, can shield a person who has reason to fear persecution in his or her country of origin.
Once a criminal’s ruling is entered, immigration officials perform a “danger opinion” assessment. The danger opinion evaluates the possible risk the offender poses on Canadian soil compared to the risk that might be inflicted on him in the country from which he fled.
Family violence should be a concern to all
Charbonneau noted the abuse Tariq faced as a child and the post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered as a result. While it’s common for traumatic upbringings to serve as an explanation to violent crimes, the judge said it’s not an excuse. The offender, who was twice previously before the court for assaulting his former wife, should know his moral blameworthiness in this case is high, the judge added.
Among the features that Charbonneau said were aggravating to the attack, were the fact that there were two children witnesses – one which the victim held, and another old enough to understand the circumstances; the fact that Marina was pregnant; that she is an Indigenous woman and therefore classified as a vulnerable person; that Tariq breached two court orders to commit the offence; and that the crimes were acts of domestic violence.
She noted the prevelance of these crimes, in the NWT in particular.
“Family violence should be a concern to everyone, not just victims and families, not just those in support groups,” said Charbonneau. “It should be a concern to politicians, courts, everyone.”