James Gloade apologized to his family in Truro provincial court for killing his grandmother, Nora Bernard. ((CBC))

The grandson of Nora Bernard has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing the Mi'kmaq activist in a crack-fuelled rage 13 months ago.

James Douglas Gloade, 25, learned his fate Friday in a packed courtroom in Truro.

He was charged with first-degree murder a few days after Bernard was found dead in her home on Nova Scotia's Millbrook First Nation on Dec. 26, 2007. He later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The court heard the horrible details of Bernard's death.

Crown prosecutor Nigel Allan described how Gloade attacked his grandmother, 72, who had fought a long legal battle for compensation for residential school survivors, after she refused to give him more money for drugs.

That day Gloade had smoked $500 worth of crack and took prescription drugs Valium and OxyContin. Bernard had given him $20 to buy drugs.

When she refused a second request for cash, Gloade went out to his truck, smoked the rest of his crack and went back into the house. He then smashed his grandmother in the face three or four times and cut her throat with a kitchen knife.

"It's a brutal and savage crime that, on the face of it, seems senseless," Allan told the court. "He remains a real threat to anyone who defies him."

Gloade's mother, sister and four other family members read victim impact statements in court.


Nora Bernard fought for compensation for residential school survivors in Canada. ((CBC))

As they described their grief and horror, Gloade sat in the courtroom with his head in his hands and wiped tears from his eyes.

He offered an apology to his family.

"I'm ashamed for what I did," Gloade said. "I let my family down. I'm sorry."

But Leanna MacLeod, Gloade's aunt, said she can't accept that.

"He should have been a man and accepted responsibility from Day One — first-degree murder. He took my mother's life, his grandmother's life," MacLeod told reporters outside the court. "He plea bargained on his grandmother's life — unacceptable."

Allan argued that based on the violence of the crime and Gloade's 37 previous convictions, he should receive a sentence of life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 20 years.

Defence lawyer Stan MacDonald asked for a much shorter sentence of 10 years, plus credit for time served.

In handing down the sentence — 15 years in prison, less two years for time served — Judge John MacDougall said he had to balance the brutality of the crime with the fact that Gloade pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

With files from the Canadian Press