Before his arrest in 2014, he had been an adventurous traveler who used earnings from working in Alberta’s oil fields to pay for his travels in Asia, Ms. Nelson-Jones said by telephone. He kept in irregular contact with his family, she said.
“He called and told his dad — my brother — that he was heading off to China, and it was just like, ‘O.K., whatever,’” she said. About a month later, the family learned he had been arrested.
Mr. Schellenberg was detained for 15 months before his first trial, and it took an additional 32 months before a court declared him guilty and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
At Mr. Schellenberg’s appeal hearing last month, prosecutors said emerging evidence indicated he had played a bigger role in a drug trafficking network, and so his initial sentence was too light.
At the retrial, prosecutors produced a witness, Xu Qing, to testify against the Canadian. But Mr. Schellenberg said he was unwittingly recruited into the scheme by Mr. Xu, reported Agence France-Presse, one of three foreign news outlets allowed into the court.
In recent years, Chinese courts have repeatedly made the point that foreigners will not be treated differently from Chinese nationals in drug convictions. Even so, death sentences for citizens of Western countries are rare in these cases.
Between 2009 and 2015, China executed at least 19 foreigners for drug trafficking, according to John Kamm, chairman of the Dui Hua Foundation, a group based in San Francisco that monitors human rights in China.
Mr. Kamm said he was astonished by the speed and severity of the sentence against Mr. Schellenberg.
Mr. Kamm noted that Hu Xijin, the editor of the Global Times, a nationalist Chinese newspaper, had warned before the sentencing that if Canada went ahead with Ms. Meng’s extradition to the United States, “China’s revenge will be far worse than detaining a Canadian.”