01/23/2014 06:24 EST | Updated 03/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Ukraine protests being closely watched in Canada

Violent protests in Ukraine against the country's pro-Russian president and his allies are being closely watched by Canadians, including those of Ukrainian descent.

Rallies are being held across Canada, including one taking place Friday in Winnipeg, as some call on the federal government to intervene in the conflict in Ukraine.

Oksana Bondarchuk, who is organizing Friday's rally, said she wants people to contact their members of Parliament and urge them to do something.

"We might even consider … those that are going to be persecuted, providing them with political asylum," she told CBC News on Thursday.

The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv has been the epicentre of two months of protests against President Viktor Yanukovych that have grown increasingly violent this week, after new laws against public demonstrations were passed.

The protests began after Yanukovych turned away from closer ties with the European Union in favour of getting a bailout loan from Russia. They turned violent this week after the president pushed through harsh anti-protest laws, rejecting protesters' demands that he resign and call new elections.

"Not just Ukrainian-Canadians, but all Canadians should be appalled at just how much is being taken away from these people," said Scott Gordon of Winnipeg's Zoloto Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, which was created in 1991 to celebrate that country's independence.

"People are dying for something as basic as their right to organize and protest."

Canada condemns violence

On Thursday, protesters stormed government offices in three western Ukraine cities, forcing one governor to write a letter of resignation, as the demonstrations intensified outside the capital city.

The Canadian government is urging the Ukrainian government "to find a political solution by engaging in a real dialogue with the people of Ukraine," a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement Thursday.

"Canada condemns the killing of protesters by Ukrainian police forces and the widely documented use of force. We stand with the Ukrainian people who courageously continue to speak out in support of democracy," Rick Roth said.

The federal government said Canada is among a number of countries considering all possible options, including sanctions, if a solution is not found.

According to Statistics Canada, about 1.2 million Canadians report having Ukrainian heritage.

Some Ukrainian-Canadians are from families that emigrated to Canada before the First World War, while others came to the country more recently.

'Looks like a real war'

Andrii Shcherbukha and Valerii Pasko, who both moved to Winnipeg three years ago in search of better opportunities, have been watching coverage online of the situation in their home country.

"It's really hard to look at those videos. It looks like a real war," said Pasko, who said Canada should help resolve the conflict.

"Canada can be a negotiator between the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian people," he said.

Shcherbukha said he is even thinking of going back to Kyiv to join the protests.

"Whatever the result is going to be, positive or negative, I won't forgive myself [if] I wasn't there," he said.

Sister Janice Soluk of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Winnipeg said she is appealing to a higher power for an end to the "heart-breaking" violence.

"They're also targeting the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and the church is asking the faithful to pray," she said.