Among natural-disaster risks, heat waves are responsible for a large number of deaths, diseases and economic losses around the world. As they will increase in severity, duration and frequency over the decades to come within the context of climate change, these extreme events constitute a genuine danger to human health, and heat-warning systems are strongly recommended by public health authorities to reduce this risk of diseases and of excessive mortality and morbidity. Thus, evidence-based public alerting criteria are needed to reduce impacts on human health before and during persistent hot weather conditions. The goal of this guide is to identify alert thresholds for heat waves in Canada based on evidence, and to propose an approach for better defining heat waves in the Canadian context in order to reduce the risks to human health and contribute to the well-being of Canadians. This guide is the result of the collaboration among various research and public institutions working on: 1) meteorological and climate aspects, i.e. the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC, Environment and Climate Change Canada), and the ESCER centre at the Université du Québec à Montréal, and 2) public health, i.e. Health Canada and the Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec.