01/31/2017 12:45 EST

Philippe Couillard: Quebec Has Its 'Demons' But Province Is A Generally Accepting Society

Quebec has its "demons" in terms of attitudes toward Muslims, but Premier Philippe Couillard says the province is generally an open and accepting society.

"Xenophobia, racism and exclusion are present here," he told a news conference in Quebec City on Tuesday. "We have to acknowledge that and work together."

philippe couillard

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, left, speaks to reporters as Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume, right, looks on at a news conference about the mosque shootings, Jan. 30, 2017. (Photo: Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Couillard was being grilled by reporters two days after someone entered a Quebec City mosque and shot six people to death and wounded several others.

Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, has been charged with murder and attempted murder in the massacre.

According to what appears to have been his Facebook account, Bissonnette was a fan of U.S. President Donald Trump, French far right leader Marine Le Pen and the Israeli armed forces.

"Our society is not perfect. No society is."

Quebec has had to contend in recent years with a controversial debate over race and religious accommodation. The previous Parti Quebecois government called for a ban on ostentatious religious symbols such as the hijab in public institutions.

Asked on Tuesday whether the atmosphere is "more insidious" in Quebec than elsewhere, Couillard replied "it is different in every community."

"Every society has to live with its demons," he replied. "Our society is not perfect. No society is."

He again urged Quebecers to work together and to continue expressing solidarity with the Muslim community.

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