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Prime Minister John Diefenbaker speaking at Progressive Conservative Party convention at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto on Feb. 19, 1963. (Boris Spremo/The Globe and Mail)
Prime Minister John Diefenbaker speaking at Progressive Conservative Party convention at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto on Feb. 19, 1963. (Boris Spremo/The Globe and Mail)

Diefenbaker hair discovered, museum will allow DNA testing in paternity hunt Add to ...

A man who believes John Diefenbaker may have been his father is getting another chance to prove his theory.

The Diefenbaker Canada Centre in Saskatoon has discovered a lock of hair labelled as belonging to Canada’s 13th prime minister.

George Dryden of Toronto has been trying for more than a year to establish whether he is Mr. Diefenbaker’s illegitimate son.

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He earlier had DNA tests done on some artifacts at the centre — such as a hatband and hairbrush —but the results were inconclusive.

“This looks to be a much more promising avenue for Mr. Dryden,” Michael Atkinson, executive director of the DCC, said Friday after the centre publicly announced the discovery.

He said the centre has left word with Mr. Dryden about the surprise find and its decision to allow testing of a portion of the hair. But staff have not yet received a response.

Mr. Atkinson said the centre underwent significant renovations over the past 18 months and its entire collection was moved to two storage locations. While moving the items back, staff manually catalogued the inventory.

That’s when workers found a small, unmarked box. Inside were three locks of children’s hair that appeared to have been taken as keepsakes. A sample of blonde hair, at least five centimetres long, was attached to the name John G. Diefenbaker.

Another sample belongs to his brother, Elmer. The third sample is unidentified.

Mr. Atkinson said when he was told about the hair, he was floored. “I actually wanted to lay my eyes on the hair samples because I couldn’t frankly believe it.”

He said he’s a bit embarrassed because the centre told Mr. Dryden last fall that it didn’t have any hair or other samples suitable for DNA testing.

“We had been through what I understood was a very thorough assessment of the collection and we had in good faith told Mr. Dryden and everybody else that we didn’t have any samples.”

However, the museum decided it would let Mr. Dryden test some of its other artifacts in the slim hope they contained some Diefenbaker DNA. But they had been handled over the years by too many people.

Mr. Atkinson explained the centre’s computer database of items did not list the hair.

“I think probably Mr. Dryden will be excited.”

Mr. Dryden claims his mother had an affair with the former Conservative prime minister in the 1960s. Mr. Diefenbaker held the title from 1957 to 1963 and it has always been assumed he had no children.

He died in 1979.

Mr. Dryden, who bears a strong resemblance to the leader, has said there were longtime family whispers about his paternity. Late last year he found out the man he believed was his dad was not his biological father.

Mr. Dryden has spoken out against the centre during his paternity quest. He has said he wanted a company out of Utah to perform further DNA tests but the centre refused because the tests involve putting a solution on the artifacts that could discolour them.

He also said he has information that Diefenbaker’s brain was removed and preserved in formaldehyde after his death and he believes the museum knows about it.

Mr. Atkinson said the centre does not have Diefenbaker’s brain.

“We don’t to expect to find Mr. Diefenbaker’s brain just because we have found a lock of his hair,” Mr. Atkinson said, adding all the inventory has now been examined and catalogued.

“There are no other artifacts.”

Editor's note: Mr. Diefenbaker served as prime minister of Canada from 1957 to 1963. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this article.

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