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The lawyer for a group that advocates allowing multiple spouses wants to know if a law against polygamy could also apply to his clients.

John Ince, who represents the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, told B.C.'s Supreme Court Wednesday that polygamy is based on a patriarchal system, while polyamorous relationships are consensual.

Mr. Ince, who practises polyamory, said that such relationships can involve a group of males and females and that members can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgendered.

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Mr. Ince is asking the attorneys-general of B.C. and Canada to decide where polyamorous people stand compared with those practising polygamy, saying about 0.5 per cent of people across the country are part of polyamorous relationships.

"We oppose laws that oppose loving, consensual relationships," he said outside court.

Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada bans polygamy, and offenders can face five-year prison terms.

Lawyer Deborah Strachan, who represents the federal government, said various issues have to be settled by the court before anyone can determine if people in polyamorous relationships are immune from prosecution.

Craig Jones, a lawyer for the B.C. Attorney-General, said there's no legal definition for polyamory and the word is debated even among people in such relationships.

Two polygamous leaders from the community of Bountiful, B.C., were charged with polygamy in January, 2009, but the case was dropped.

Winston Blackmore is suing the B.C. government for wrongful prosecution after the province chose instead to refer the question of the constitutionality of Canada's polygamy laws directly to B.C. Supreme Court.

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Mr. Ince said polyamorous relationships "encourage sharing" and joint decision-making while polygamous ones focus on male dominance, where "you hoard women, you hoard wealth."

"We're postmodern," he said, adding people in polyamorous relationships may or may not live together.

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