Q&A

Sitting down with first Muslim woman in U.S. Congress — Rashida Tlaib

Rashida Tlaib is about to become the first Muslim woman in U.S. Congress. Her congressional district covers parts of Detroit and surrounding cities. What will this mean for Windsor?

Former Michigan state Rep. won the Democratic nomination to run for the House seat unopposed in November

(Dale Molnar/CBC)

Michigan's Rashida Tlaib is about to become the first Muslim woman to hold a seat in the U.S. Congress. Her region is the 13th congressional district, which covers parts of Detroit and surrounding cities. 

Tlaib is known for her involvement with cross-border issues. So what will her win mean for Windsor and the rest of Canada?

The following has been edited for length and clarity:

Q: What does this mean for Windsor?

Southwest Detroit is what I call the sister neighbourhood of Windsor. From our issues shared around Zug Island, the issues around environmental injustices, the issue around the fight around Matty Moroun, our fight to make sure that if we build a new bridge between Canada and Detroit, that it is one that is a healthy bridge.

The relationship between myself and Canadian authorities on all different levels have been strong. My friend, parliament member Brian Masse actually came down to help door knock.

Q: What about the hum problem in Windsor?

I don't think anybody has dug in deep to find out what's going on. I truly believe it's coming from Zug Island. I think everybody agrees it's coming from Zug Island, but no one seems to be pushing back on U.S. Steel and others to find out how they can make it stop.

Q: What reassurances can you give Canadians about President Donald Trump's actions on tariffs?

I think my Canadian neighbours need to know that I know he's being reckless, that his approach to this issue does jeopardize our incredibly important economic partnership with Canada.

Twenty-seven per cent of trade comes across that border every single day into the United States. We need that partnership with Canada. I think, you know, sit down and re-negotiate the trade deals, instead of doing this aggressive combative approach, it's reckless and it's dangerous. I hope to be a voice regarding that issue.

Q: What are people saying in your district?

I don't think people realize. I don't think they're going to realize until the cost of food goes up, until the cost of living in the United States goes up. We're going to have to wait until that actually happens for people to be awakened about what it meant for President Donald Trump to impose tariffs.

The House seat Tlaib will be filling was held by former Rep. John Conyers for more than 50 years. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Q: Are Michigan residents concerned about auto tariffs?

In my district going door-to-door, it was not brought up. It was brought up in various forums, but they were not led by residents.

But I can tell you the 13th congressional district is really concerned about access to home loans to buy your own home and the quality of our education. So know that there are other challenges and issues, it doesn't mean they don't are. It just means they have a lot on their plate right now with their family. I do think it has to get worse before people wake up.

Q: What does your win mean for Muslims in America?

It's a powerful message not only to President Trump, but to a number of people that have been pushing this rhetoric that Muslims don't belong here. And thinking about the Muslim ban right now, I smile because I realize you may try to ban Muslims from coming into the United States, but you're not going to ban them from becoming being members of Congress, and what a powerful message that is across the country.

Q: How do you feel?

It's overwhelming, but I'm also so honoured and grateful for the families of the 13th congressional district. Of course a lot of people see this as changing the course of American history, but for many of us here at home, it was about electing someone who is not going to back down to corporate greed and really elevate their voices in congress.

With files from the CBC's Dale Molnar