The family of Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was recently sentenced to death by the Chinese government for drug trafficking have called out the sentence as `horrific’. My heart goes to the family at these trying times. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the ruling and according to media reports, the ruling is likely to worsen a diplomatic row between the two countries. Trudeau is quoted in the BBC saying that "It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply the death penalty,". Schellenberg has 10 days to launch an appeal and most likely will.
The media is alluding that Schellenberg’s case has been unfavorably reviewed from a 15 years’ imprisonment to a death sentence after Canada arrested a top official at the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, upon the request from the United States. According to the BBC, the detention of Meng Wanzhou, 46, last month angered China and soured its relations with both Canada and the US.
Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 accused of planning to smuggle almost 500lb (227kg) of methamphetamine from China to Australia. As a non- supporter of the death penalty, I stand with Canada on this one, but will like to take this particular case in point to draw attention to the double standard and racism inherent in Canada’s administration and interpretation of its judicial system when it comes to African and Asian men. In this case, I will be referring more specifically to the treatment of Nigerian men in Canada’s judicial system.
I am here echoing the allusion made by the BBC’s news piece that China is retaliating with Schellenberg’s death penalty for Canada’s arrest of a Chinese citizen. This case raises questions and must draw our attention to Canada’s long-standing practice of outsourcing its human rights abuses and racism against African and Asian men. To be specific, we must start asking questions and bring to light the racism in Canada’s extradition practices.
Today there are many Nigerian men that Canada has extradited to the United States for alleged scams, with little or no substantive evidence. What is most disturbing is that Canada’s legal system does not feel the need to provide adequate reasons for such extradition beyond such phrases as the `United States has asked Canada to extradite and/or arrest them’. Canada of course enjoys a reputation as a protector and defender of human rights laws, policies and practices globally. Canada prides itself as the country the abused come to for solace and shelter from human rights violations. It makes sense that Canada would prefer that the United States does its ‘dirty’ work. After all, the United States has a history, and is quite unapologetic about its treatment of black men in its judicial system. Bottom line, the extradition arrangement between Canada and the United States should not and cannot be an excuse for Canada to continue to outsource its human rights violation and racism.
Nigerians, Africans and blacks in general are so embarrassed by the 419 or advance - fee scam associated to Nigerians and are wary of being tainted by it resulting in countries like Canada, the United States and many other western countries getting away with persecuting innocent Nigerian men without evidence and/or due process.
An advance-fee scam ‘typically involves promising the [so called] “victim” a significant share of a large sum of money, in return for a small up-front payment, which the fraudster requires to obtain the large sum. If a “victim” makes the payment, the fraudster either invents a series of further fees for the victim or simply disappears.” What is glossed over by the international community is that in the case of the so-called `Nigerian scam’, to be scammed means the scammed had the intention of scamming the African country in the first place. While Nigeria is often referred to in these scams, they originate in other countries as well. `61% of internet criminals were traced to locations in the United States, while 16% were traced to the United Kingdom, and 6% to Nigeria. The number "419" refers to the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud, the charges and penalties for offenders.
Many Nigerians are tainted with the fraudulent brush even when innocent. The pattern and practice are that the US and Canada legal systems coaxes the accused to name other Nigerians as part of plea bargains for lesser sentences and many are tempted and agree. In a recent case, a jailed Nigerian mentioned names of fellow Nigerian men who did not contribute financially to his family’s upkeep while he was in jail. To negotiate a lesser sentence, he mentioned these names. Canada has extradited many of these Nigerian men to the United States where they are presently languishing in jail.
Let us pause for a moment to review why Canada and other Western countries are so willing to discard their core human right principles when it comes to issues of the `Nigerian scam’. I am convinced that what Nigerian men are suffering in the western system whether guilty or not is tantamount to `lynching’. The white system is miffed that Black men could possibly outsmart them in their centuries old practices of exploiting Africa.
One must understand that in the case of 419 or the so called “Nigerian scam”, it takes two to tango. You must be corrupt and willing to make quick bucks from Africa to be swindled in the first place. Touching on the reasons for hunger in Africa, Pope Francis during his August 2018 visit to Africa noted that ‘in our collective unconscious, there is something inside us that says Africa must be exploited.’ The West has been more comfortable with exploiting Africa, so, when a black man attempts it and dares to succeed in it, the sense of white indignation is unleashed with complete disregard for implementing the law correctly or following due process.
My outcry regarding the way Canada has colluded with the United States and other European countries in the treatment of Nigerian men with or without evidence of fraud does not in any way condone scams, fraud, or 419. Just like Canada’s condemnation of the death sentencing of Schellenberg is not an endorsement of drug trafficking. My point of pain here is how the racism in Canada’s legal system is beginning to fuel retaliation around the world. The media coverage of this case alludes to this strongly.
For cases like this, where Canada’s outsourcing of racism is compromising legal consideration for white Canadians facing or who might face legal issues in other countries, Canada must start respecting the human rights of African, black and Asian men in their jurisdiction. For a start the gross human rights violation and racism inherent in Canada extradition practices which is an outsourcing of its racism to the United States must stop.
Many Nigerian men are in jail by associating with other Nigerians who may be guilty of advance fee fraud, many Nigerian men have been jailed on allegation of fraud by being seen at parties with other Nigerians accused of fraud / scam. Nigerian men are languishing in US prisons, and serving long prison terms because Canada, without any due process or evidence, sent them to the United States because the United States told Canada to. In the case of allegation of fraud, many Nigerian men have been found guilty for being simply male and Nigerian.
Today I bemoan Canada’s outsourcing of its human rights and racism against Nigerian men as a Nigerian-Canadian who for 8 years supported the Government of Canada and people of Canada to advocate for critical human and civil rights issues that did not affect blacks or was not related to my situation in any way. I did this to give back to Canada as my country of choice. Some of the causes I fought for were a risk to my safety and security. It breaks my heart that I could have sacrificed for my chosen country Canada only to witness helplessly its abuse of men from my country of birth, first country and country of origin; Nigeria. Canada has been throwing Nigerian men to the dogs for little or no evidence. The death sentence on Schellenberg is indeed horrific and is possibly a retaliation for Canada’s complicity in the human rights violation and racism in its judicial systems.
Please let us all stay horrified at the fate of the Canadian sentenced to death in China: we must continue to advocate for his release and at a minimum for him to serve a jail time as opposed to the death penalty. And while we are at it, we must also call on our Canadian judicial system to account for outsourcing its racism and human rights abuses to the United States to the detriment of the fair treatment of our fellow Canadians facing criminal charges abroad.
I am imploring members of the legal community to review the cases of the many Nigerian men Canada has extradited to the United States to face jail terms without evidence. Today they are languishing in jails without due process and/or evidence.
 Advance-fee scam - Wikipedia