TRURO, N.S. -  

The grandson of native rights activist Nora Bernard was given a 15 year sentence Friday for manslaughter in her killing, which court heard was the result of a drug fuelled rage after she refused to give him money.

James Douglas Gloade of Millbrook First Nation had earlier pleaded guilty to the charge in the death of the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq elder, whose lengthy court battles helped secure an historic $5-billion settlement for survivors of Indian residential schools.

Gloade, 25, was originally charged on Dec. 31, 2007, with first-degree murder, four days after Bernard's body was found in the kitchen of her Truro home.

When time already served is taken into account, Gloade has 13 years remaining on his sentence.

In an agreed statement of facts read in provincial court, Crown attorney Nigel Allan said Gloade consumed $500 worth of crack cocaine, OxyContin and Valium when he went to his grandmother's house on Dec. 26, 2007, looking for more money.

The 72-year-old woman gave her grandson $20, but when he returned three hours later looking for more cash, she refused.

After going outside to smoke more crack, Gloade returned and hit Bernard three or four times about the head before slitting her throat twice while she lay on the floor.

The statement of facts quotes Gloade as saying his "head was buzzing" before he killed his grandmother.

Afterwards, Gloade went to his uncle's home to wash, then left to get more drugs.

He discarded a knife and his boots, which have never been found, but he left a bloody sweatshirt at his uncle's home. When he confessed, Gloade told police where to find the sweatshirt. Tests showed it had Bernard's DNA on it.

Court also heard six victim impact statements, three from Bernard's daughters, two from her granddaughters and one from her sister.

Danielle Gloade, James Gloade's sister, described her grandmother as someone she relied on, "the one person I know I could always go to ... the one person who was cheering me on."

She said her plans to marry her fiance fell apart in the aftermath of her grandmother's death.

"When she died that night a piece of me died too," Gloade said, adding that drugs destroyed her brother's life.

"The last few years he was so strung out on drugs, he was never around," she said.

In the early 1990s, Bernard began organizing abuse victims who attended a residential school in Shubenacadie, N.S. Her original lawsuit argued that tens of thousands of children had been robbed of their culture and language while attending the infamous schools, run by six Christian denominations until the 1960s.

She spent 15 years fighting to win compensation for generations of native children.

Her lawsuit was eventually merged with other legal actions, culminating in the largest class-action suit in Canada, which represented 79,000 survivors.

Earlier, Allen concluded the police investigation and the medical examiner's report supported a conviction for manslaughter, rather than first-degree murder. He said there was no evidence of pre-meditation.

Gloade's lawyer, Stan MacDonald, has said his client accepts responsibility for what happened to his grandmother.

The Crown sought a 20-year sentence, while the defence asked for 10 years.

Lloyd Johnson, a Millbrook band councillor and friend of the Bernard family, has said Bernard was the type of person who would welcome anybody into her home. Gloade often visited his grandmother and the councillor believes she wanted to help him.

John McKiggan, Bernard's lawyer and friend, described Bernard as a warm, caring woman who suffered abuse as a child but survived because of her Catholic faith and native spirituality.

In an earlier interview, he said Bernard's steely determination was the driving force behind the effort that landed the multibillion-dollar settlement.

"I believe that if it wasn't for Nora, the settlement ... may never have happened," McKiggan said. "This settlement is the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. ... It's an incredible achievement."

Bernard received $14,000 in compensation just before she was killed.