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Hilary Armstrong was born in northern England, and left school at 16 to take on secretarial work to help support her family. She became active in the Labour Party youth in Britain, in particular the ban-the-bomb movement of the 1960s. Emigrating to Canada in 1967, she joined the New Democratic Party (NDP) where she became very active in her local riding association, and in federal and provincial election campaigns. Armstrong subsequently joined the Waffle movement because of its stance on Canadian independence, and served as an organizer behind the scenes. She ceased her political activities in 1973 when she began her career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), first as a story editor. By the time of her retirement in 2006, she had worked as producer/director and senior editor in a variety of news, current affairs and documentary programs. She was awarded three Gemini Awards for her work.