01/26/2015 02:34 EST | Updated 03/28/2015 05:59 EDT

Charlie Hebdo staffer says magazine now getting much-needed financial support

MONTREAL - A journalist with Charlie Hebdo says the satirical weekly is getting much-needed financial support — but at a heavy price.

"Charlie Hebdo was a poor newspaper (in terms of money), a really poor newspaper," Zineb El-Rhazoui, 33, told a news conference Monday.

"The last time I went to southern France to work on an election, the newspaper's credit card didn't work."

Its new firm financial footing has come at the cost of a dozen colleagues killed in a terrorist attack at the publication's Paris office earlier this month.

"Today, everyone wants to give us money, we have a lot of money, millions of euros," said El-Rhazoui, adding that Charlie Hebdo's editor even sought financial help from French President Francois Hollande a few weeks before the attack.

She said losing editor Stephane Charbonnier and the other employees was too high a cost.

"We would have preferred to keep our friends and stay as poor as we were," added El-Rhazoui, who was in Montreal to take part in an evening fundraising event in support of Charlie Hebdo.

She escaped the massacre because she was in her native Morocco when the Jan. 7 attack took place. She made it clear she has not given any consideration to quitting the newspaper.

El-Rhazoui also came out strongly in favour of secularism, which was hotly debated in Quebec last year.

The then-Parti Quebecois government introduced a controversial charter in 2014 that would have prohibited state employees from wearing religious symbols in the workplace. It never became law because the PQ lost the election.

"Secularism is the only way, as far as I know, to permit everyone to live in the same society," El-Rhazoui said.

She said everyone in a country should be treated the same way.

"If I start to accept that a girl in France from a certain background doesn't have the same rights, that it's shocking in her community if she wears certain clothing, if she had a glass of wine... (then) civilization will be finished," El-Rhazoui said.

Muslims who live in France and in western societies should accept secularism if they really want to integrate, she said.

"Islam should accept a sense of humour and should bend to secularism because it's the only way which allows a society where there are people with different horizons to live together in peace."