There must be more emphasis on preventing expectant mothers from harming their babies, says Alberta premier Alison Redford.
The premier gave a keynote address at the first-ever international conference on prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Edmonton.
Experts are discussing theories to prevent women from drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
They are focusing on the challenges of FASD in aboriginal communities and medical questions such as whether there is any safe level of alcohol for a woman during pregnancy.
Redford said FASD is widespread in the prison population.
"The last statistics I heard were that over 70 per cent of people in the criminal justice system are suffering symptoms of FASD so let's think about how to be innovative with respect to supporting people before they get into circumstances where they come into contact with the criminal justice system."
Some who study the disorder believe conditional sentences would be more appropriate for those who commit crimes and have FASD.
FASD refers to a range of disorders including fetal alcohol syndrome. It's estimated that the disorder affects one per cent of newborns in North America.