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The Globe and Mail

‘Diefenbaby’ says hair is useless to test for DNA link to former PM

George Dryden, who believes his father was former prime minister John Diefenbaker, is seen in Toronto on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011.


A Toronto man who believes John Diefenbaker may have been his father thinks there's no point testing a recently discovered lock of the former prime minister's hair.

The Diefenbaker Canada Centre in Saskatoon announced last week it found a chunk of hair labelled as belonging to the former prime minister.

The hair, not listed in the museum's computer database, was a surprise find for the museum during renovations. Staff believe the blond strands were likely cut from Diefenbaker's head when he was a child as a family keepsake.

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The centre has invited George Dryden to have the hair tested, but he says he believes it would be a waste of time.

"It's useless. There's nothing there to test," Mr. Dryden said on Tuesday. "You need the root. A clipping just doesn't do it."

Mr. Dryden, who bears a strong resemblance to the former Conservative leader, claims his mother had an affair with the prime minister in the 1960s.

Diefenbaker was Canada's 13th prime minister from 1957 to 1963. He reportedly had no children and died in 1979.

Mr. Dryden has been trying for more than a year to establish whether he is Diefenbaker's offspring. Earlier this year, he hired a company to conduct DNA tests on a few of the centre's artifacts, but the results were inconclusive.

Mr. Dryden said he's disappointed the museum touted the hair as a major development in his paternity quest.

"The only thing that might be useful to be tested would be if there was some dandruff or something on the hair. … But this was clipped from his head when he was a little boy, so I'd be very surprised if there is dandruff there."

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The centre's director, Michael Atkinson, said it looks like a clean cut of hair with no specks. "I didn't see anything else."

Mr. Dryden is still pursuing other avenues to find proof he's Diefenbaker son.

He's considering a search through the centre's entire collection to determine if there's anything else worth testing. But the endeavour will likely cost thousands of dollars and Mr. Dryden said his relationship with the centre is strained. He speaks with staff through the centre's lawyer.

Mr. Atkinson said the centre would have to charge Mr. Dryden $100 an hour to have its curator oversee such an exhaustive search. He said staff previously went through its archives and selected the most suitable items for DNA testing – hat bands, a watch band and even a pipe. He said the centre is not prepared to absorb the cost a second time.

"We're not just going to give somebody the key to go look at it on their own. We need to be there at all times. This is costly to us.

"Mr. Dryden has to be like anybody else."

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Editor's Note: Diefenbaker was Canada's 13th prime minister from 1957 to 1963. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this story.

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