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Chinese court sentences Canadian to death for drug smuggling | China News

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A court in China has sentenced a Canadian man to death on drug trafficking charges, after his previous 15-year prison sentence was deemed too lenient, a ruling likely to deepen a diplomatic rift between Ottawa and Beijing.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, 36, nodded as the judge in the northeast city of Dalian asked him whether he understood the verdict, following a day-long retrial on Monday in which he declared his innocence.

“The court completely rejects the accused person’s explanation and defence because it is completely at odds with the facts,” the chief judge said in a courtroom packed with observers – among them Canadian embassy officials, AFP news agency reported. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Ottawa that he is concerned that China chose to “arbitrarily” apply the death penalty to a Canadian citizen.

Schellenberg was detained more than four years ago and initially sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. But suddenly last month, an appeals court agreed with prosecutors who said the sentence was too lenient, and scheduled Monday’s retrial with just four days’ notice.

Schellenberg was told in court he has the right to appeal to Liaoning High Court within 10 days of receiving the ruling, the court said in a statement, adding that he was involved in organised international drug crimes.






Chinese casino in ‘Golden Triangle’ lead to questions of drug ties

Schellenberg’s lawyer Zhang Dongshuo told Reuters news agency that he will likely appeal the sentence.

Monday’s sentence comes against the backdrop of the Chinese government’s anger over the arrest in Canada of a top executive from telecom giant Huawei last month, on a US extradition request related to Iran sanctions violations.

Chinese authorities have since detained two Canadian nationals – a former diplomat and a business consultant – on suspicion of endangering national security, a move seen as retaliation over the Huawei executive’s arrest.

China denies political link

The Dalian court said Schellenberg, who was detained in December 2014, played a “key part” in an international drug trafficking syndicate.

“Not just content with spreading drugs in one country, the syndicate has spread across borders… it is a harm to human health and also to the stability of countries,” the court said.

In his final statement before the sentence was announced, Schellenberg said, “I am not a drug smuggler. I came to China as a tourist.” 






China fast becoming Europe’s drug wholesaler: UN

Analysts and rights groups said retrials are rare in China, especially ones calling for a harsher sentence.

“China is going to face lots of questions about why this particular person, of this particular nationality, had to be retried at this particular time,” Human Rights Watch’s Washington-based China director Sophie Richardson told Reuters.

Ottawa has said it was following the case “very closely” and has provided Schellenberg with consular assistance.

Beijing has repeatedly denied any diplomatic pressure in the case.

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that critics “can stop recklessly suspecting others of politicising legal issues just because they have done so”.

In his defence, Schellenberg said he was a victim of a set-up by an international drug ring.

But Chinese prosecutors said he was the principal suspect in a case involving an international syndicate that planned to send some 222kg of methamphetamine to Australia, hidden in plastic pellets which were concealed in rubber tyres.

Two Chinese men have also received sentences – one to life imprisonment, while another was handed a suspended death sentence.

China has executed other foreigners for drug-related crimes in the past, including a Japanese national in 2014 and a Filipina in 2013.

Beijing considers the number of people executed in China each year to be a state secret. International human rights organisations estimate the figure at around 2,000.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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