The family of Ian "Whitey" MacDonald wants him to serve the remainder of his sentence for drug smuggling in the U.S. rather than Manitoba so he can be closer to relatives.

MacDonald, 73, has both prostate and bone cancers and is a dying man, says his family.

"Just have a soft heart – just look at it, just look at the cost to everybody. He's harmless," said Lisa MacDonald, Ian's daughter.

"It's terrible. I'd give anything to go home," said Ian MacDonald.

He was once believed to be a key player in a drug-smuggling ring in the 1970s.

He escaped custody and was a wanted fugitive for 32 years, before being captured in Florida and brought back to Canada to face drug charges.

Last year, he pleaded guilty and was given two years of house arrest, a sentence he's currently serving in a Winnipeg care home. 

"God, please just give another chance," he said.

In 2011, doctors at the remand centre said he had less than three years to live.

For his children, seeing their father deteriorate is especially hard since they lost contact with him for more than 30 years while he was on the run.

"The hardest thing is finding him and the shock – we thought he was dead. We thought we'd never know the truth or see him again," said Lisa.

Relatives said they're trying to move past hurt feelings, coming from California to be by his side in Winnipeg.

"I just want him to be back in the (U.S.) with his wife, knowing he is being taken care of," said Kelly Weiss, another of MacDonald's daughters.

They want him to serve the remainder of his sentence in Pennsylvania, near his wife. 

The family has written to Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews asking for help. They have yet to receive a response.

When contacted by CTV News, officials wouldn't talk about specifics in the case. 

The Correctional Service of Canada issued some general details late Wednesday.

"International transfer cases are processed in accordance with the International Transfer of Offenders Act, and each application for transfer is carefully considered and decisions are made in accordance with the terms of the Act," said the CSC in an email.

"Whoever is in charge should be ashamed of themselves. They let the Lockerbie bomber guy go home and this guy here is harmless," said Basey Shane, MacDonald's son.

"I'm just so ashamed at myself for the way I've conducted my life," said Ian.

With whatever time he has left, he said he hopes to spend the remaining 16 months of his house-arrest sentence in the U.S., closer to family.

- with a report from CTV's Stacey Ashley