'I take back my power,' says N.W.T. survivor of New Year's Eve knife attack

An agreed-upon statement of facts says St. Croix yelled "you don't love me," and stabbed his ex with a steak knife until it broke.

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing

A file image of a woman's silhouette. This week an N.W.T. woman's ex-husband pleaded guilty to an aggravated assault against her in late 2018 - and she says she is now freed. (Shutterstock / khuncho007)

The survivor of a brutal attack by her ex-husband on the last hours of 2018 says that his guilty plea to aggravated assault has freed her and her children from the burden of reliving that New Year's Eve nightmare.

"I forgive him. Yet, I will do so from a distance forever," she said. "I take back my power and hope he heals and forgives himself one day." 

On that evening almost two years ago in Yellowknife, the woman and her children were getting ready to watch fireworks from their balcony. Then her ex — Tariq St. Croix — broke into their home and stabbed her in the face, shoulder, stomach and chest. St. Croix continued until the steak knife he was using in the attack broke. 

That's according to an agreed-upon statement of facts between St. Croix and prosecutors that was signed on Monday.

CBC News is not naming the victim to protect her identity.

St. Croix has pleaded guilty to breaking and entering, and aggravated assault, according to the record of proceedings in Northwest Territories Supreme Court. St. Croix had first been charged by police with attempted murder, but accepted the lesser plea. He will be sentenced on Feb. 11. His survivor said she expects he will be deported to St. Lucia, a Caribbean island where he is from, after his sentence.

Tariq St. Croix, covering his face with a garment, is escorted into a van after a court appearance. St. Croix has pleaded guilty to breaking and entering, and aggravated assault, after he stabbed his ex-partner on New Year's Eve in 2018. (CBC)

The agreed statement of facts says that St. Croix broke into the woman's home through a window and yelled "you don't love me" before repeatedly stabbing her in front of her toddler and her other child. 

The child took the toddler so the littlest one would be safe. The woman, who was pregnant, ran onto the balcony before St. Croix dragged her back inside and kicked her in the head.

The survivor told CBC in a Facebook message that while she has a scar on her belly from the wounds, the baby she birthed after the attack is now "healthy and strong."

One of her fondest memories is watching the baby push a giant pack of toilet paper around the house with the weight of his infant body, when he was only six months old.

"He is happy and laughs … he is gifted … he was worth all the pain," she said. "I cannot wait to see what he becomes. Maybe a police officer like the man who saved him."

Intimate partner violence escalates, experts say

In 2019, CBC reported that St. Croix has a history of violence against his ex-partner. He had previously been convicted for assaulting her and uttering threats, as well as failing to comply with an emergency protection order taken out against him.

Experts tell CBC that the survivor of St. Croix's attack is not alone — this kind of violence fits patterns widely found in how intimate partners abuse their victims. 

Pertice Moffitt, an expert in femicide at the Aurora Research Institute, said pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to this behaviour from an intimate partner "who has extreme jealousy for the unborn baby."

Moffitt adds that in her view, the history of repeated violence "is indicative of the attitude of the perpetrator that she is his possession to do with as he wishes."

Louise Elder, executive director of the Status of Women Council of the N.WT, says that it's all too common for abusers to escalate their violence, especially after someone tries to leave an abusive relationship.

"A protection order is a piece of paper," Elder said. "It doesn't stop an angry perpetrator — it's not a guarantee."

The Northwest Territories has Canada's second-highest rate of intimate partner violence in the country — second only to Nunavut, Elder said.

CBC News requested comment from St. Croix through his attorney Kate Oja, but did not receive a reply.

Survivor calls for structural supports

The survivor of the attack says that she wants to see more support so that other people can break cycles of abuse. That includes more Indigenous women being hired into government jobs, better addiction facilities for vulnerable people and more support for victims from public housing, so that families don't have to live in buildings where their abusers know where they are. 

"There is just way too much broken in all the systems," she said. "Every day and still today, I deal with chronic pain. I believe that when the body is in a never-ending state of trauma and fear it cripples you."

Now, she is trying to move on from that trauma so that it doesn't consume her, and focus on raising her children.

"That is what keeps a mother alive," she said. "Waiting to see what her children become."