The family of a Manitoba man who evaded police for more than 30 years before being arrested wants the terminally ill ex-fugitive returned to Pennsylvania where his wife lives.

Ian Jackson MacDonald, 73, has been serving a conditional sentence in a local care home since he pleaded guilty last year to a decades-old drug-smuggling charge.

'He made a lot of mistakes; he's the first to say it. But he just needs to go home.' —Lisa Alexander, Ian MacDonald's daughter 

MacDonald has terminal prostate cancer that has spread to his bones, as well as coronary artery disease, diabetes and other medical problems. Doctors have estimated he has months to live.

MacDonald told CBC News he wants Canadian and U.S. justice officials to let him return to Pennsylvania.

"I probably don't deserve it, but if there's a way that I could finish my sentence in my home or someplace close to home…." he said Wednesday.

Originally from Winnipeg, MacDonald — who was known as "Big Mac" and "Whitey" — was arrested in Florida in 1980 on a warrant issued by Manitoba police, who suspected he had helped smuggle more than 225 kilograms of marijuana into Canada.

Escaped custody

While in custody, he faked a heart attack and was taken to hospital, where he escaped by conning a guard into removing his leg shackles, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

MacDonald escaped and lived on the lam for many years, until an officer who was assigned to the file in 2009 found information that led investigators to a home in Pennsylvania, where MacDonald and his wife had once lived under an assumed name.

Officers then learned the couple had moved to a town in central Florida, where MacDonald was located and arrested in January 2011.

MacDonald was extradited from Florida and returned to Manitoba, where he pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to import narcotics.

He received a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community.

As a condition of his sentence, MacDonald has been under 24-hour house arrest except in case of medical appointments or emergencies.

Children forgive him

Ex-MLA's innocence confirmed

The case that led to MacDonald's initial arrest and escape resulted in Bob Wilson, a former Manitoba MLA, serving seven years behind bars.

Wilson was the Progressive Conservative MLA in the Winnipeg riding of Wolseley when he was arrested, along with several others, in a major drug bust in 1979.

Wilson was tried, convicted and jailed in connection with the bust in 1980. He also lost his seat in the legislature.

But Wilson has maintained he was innocent — a point that MacDonald confirmed in his interview with CBC News.

"He had nothing to do with any of that," MacDonald said of Wilson.

Wilson, now 77, said he is glad to hear what MacDonald has said. He has applied for a federal review of his conviction.

MacDonald's three children, who were born in Winnipeg but now live in California, did not even know he was alive until they learned of his capture last year.

"I had really come to the terms that he was dead and I was never going to know the truth about him," said Lisa Alexander, who travelled with her siblings to Winnipeg to see their father.

The children say they forgive MacDonald for his decades on the run, and they are now lobbying both the Canadian and U.S. governments to let him reunite with his family.

"We all got the short end of the stick our whole lives, and if you could just give us a chance, you know, let him come home for a little while," said Basey Shane, his son.

The children argue that keeping MacDonald in Canada is costing taxpayers money because the government is covering his medical bills.

Alexander said both governments should show MacDonald and his family a little mercy.

"Life's not just about if you deserve it," she said, her voice cracking.

"He's a human being. He made a lot of mistakes; he's the first to say it. But he just needs to go home to his wife, back to the [United] States … he needs to go home."

With files from the CBC's Sean Kavanagh