A surprising discovery at the Diefenbaker Canada Centre could provide answers for a man who claims he’s the son of the former prime minister.
The University of Saskatchewan announced Aug. 31 that the centre, situated between the riverbank and the Education Building, has “located additional samples that may be of interest” to John George Dryden, the 43-year-old Toronto legal consultant who has spent the past year publicly searching for evidence to determine if Diefenbaker is his father.
Dryden contacted the centre late last year and was granted access to a stash of artifacts that once belonged to Diefenbaker, including hats, a watch strap, a pipe and a hairbrush. But forensic tests conducted on the handle of the hairbrush failed to provide a conclusive DNA profile of the former prime minister.
Now the centre says that, as a result of recent renovations, previously unknown hair samples of Diefenbaker have surfaced. During the renovations, the centre’s entire collection was moved to storage. The samples were found when the collection was returned to the centre and catalogued.
“It was discovered through this manual cataloguing that the centre has three hair samples that had been inadvertently omitted from the digital database of artifacts,” director of the centre Michael Atkinson said in a press release Friday.
The samples are labelled as belonging to Diefenbaker’s brother Elmer and Diefenbaker himself. A third sample is unidentified.
The centre is “willing to allow Dryden to test a portion of the samples,” Atkinson said. “The testing will destroy a small portion of the hair material, but most will remain intact and retained in the Diefenbaker Canada Centre.”
Dryden learned last June that his mother’s husband, the man who he had thought was his father, was not. At the time of Dryden’s birth in 1968, his mother Mary Lou was a well known Conservative socialite and a close friend of Diefenbaker, who served as the Tory prime minister from 1957 to 1963 and died in 1979.
If the affair did happen, Mary Lou would have been in her 30s, while Diefenbaker would have been in his 70s. When the story first broke, Dryden told the National Post he believes the identify of his father was kept a secret because of the “social stigma and political sensitivities prevalent in Canadian society in 1968.”
Earlier this year, Dryden told the media that he had received a call from a man who claims to have a relative who participated in Diefenbaker’s autopsy and saw the 13th prime minister’s brain removed and preserved in formaldehyde. Dryden has said he believes the Diefenbaker Centre knows the whereabouts of the brain.
Update (09/05/12): Macleans.ca was given an exclusive interview with Dryden and reported today that he has recieved DNA proof that he is related to Diefenbaker, after he tracked-down two dozen of the former prime minister’s distant relatives living in Ontario. Dryden’s team of private investigators retrieved a used and discarded cue-tip from one of the relatives after the family was unwilling to co-operate and provide samples.
“It was then sent to directly to a Toronto firm where DNA analysts identified ‘genetic overlap’ pointing to common ancestry,” Macleans.ca reported.
Photo: Aaron Lynett/The National Post & Paul Horsdal/Library and Archives Canada