MONTREAL -- Hundreds of people gathered Saturday at Place Valois in Montreal's east end to demonstrate against the Ray-Mont Logistiques project, which plans to install a container site on a vacant lot in the residential district of Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

"We cannot allow the destruction of our environment for the profit of a company," said Anaïs Houde, spokesperson for Mobilisation 6600 Parc-Nature MHM, which organized the event.

"It is completely unacceptable. The company wants to store containers of agricultural products and then transport them to the port of Montreal."

According to Houde, the negative consequences of the project will be numerous.

"The destruction of natural environments, the creation of heat islands, the loss of biodiversity, the creation of polluting infrastructures, the increase in truck traffic and the passage of trains [...] vibrations and noise 24 hours a day" are some examples, said Houde. The site is located "less than 100 meters from homes."

Spokesperson for Québec solidaire Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who was present at the demonstration, declared that "it is the Minister of the Environment of Quebec who must intervene, who must proceed to an environmental evaluation in due form."

"We are in 2021, the environment and the economy, they must go together," he added.

Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, who also joined the rally, agreed, saying, "the government must impose an environmental assessment so that we can have a clear picture of the environmental impact, but also of the social acceptability," adding that his party is "committed to tabling a motion this week that will force a response from the government as to whether or not it is committed to holding a BAPE (Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement) on this project."

On the federal side, outgoing Minister Steven Guilbeault was present, as were at least three candidates in the Hochelaga riding: the Liberal party's Soraya Martinez Ferrada, NDP's Catheryn Roy-Goyette, and the Bloc Québécois' Simon Marchand.

"We are happy that today at the demonstration all levels are represented," said Anaïs Houde, who believes that "the province has its role to play and it will have to happen."

She stated that her group is "not going to stop at mitigation measures or motions," but is calling for the conservation of a natural park.

"Ray-Mont Logistiques is a Montreal-based company is committed to developing a project that will benefit the community, Montreal and all of Quebec," said Charles Raymond, president and CEO of the company, in a statement.

"We are aware that our project may raise questions for some residents of the area and it is legitimate for them to express them publicly."

Ray-Mont Logistiques bought the land in 2016. Montreal initially refused to grant it a building permit, a decision that was eventually overturned by the courts. The company is now suing the city for $373 million in damages.

Since last June, Ray-Mont has put its project on hold to allow time for a joint task force with the city to make recommendations, which are expected by the end of September.

In the press release, the company points out that "investments of $35 million have been made since the purchase of the property, including $15 million dedicated specifically to land remediation" and that the project "will reduce nearly one-third of the total trucking on Notre-Dame St."

He also mentions the creation of 200 new jobs and participation in the delivery of "Canadian humanitarian aid" to other countries.

--This report was first published in French by The Canadian Press on Sept. 18.