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Topic – Why Explorers Came to Canada

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Why Explorers Came to Canada

The Northwest Passage

The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen went south of Victoria Island, and later explorers stayed to the north of the island.

For hundreds of years, Europeans had traded with India and China for silk, spices, tea, and more. The route the traders took became known as the Silk Road. But the journey over the lands through Europe and Asia was very long. Bandits and robbers also made it very dangerous. Traders began to wonder if there was a different way to reach China.

Fur traders in Canada

Explorers set out to discover if they could sail to China. They had no idea that an entire continent lay between them and Asia. In fact, when early explorers first came to North America, they thought they had reached China.

When the explorers discovered they were not in China, they began looking for a way to go over the top of Canada. They called this the Northwest Passage. They had no idea how big Canada was or how icy the waters to the north were.


Most European countries competed with each other for wealth and power. They felt it was important to own and control more land. The rulers of England and France paid for many explorers to head out and claim new lands. A lot of these explorers came to Canada. They built settlements here to help strengthen their countries’ claims to the land.

European countries also wanted to spread their religion. Many missionaries came to Canada, hoping to convert Indigenous peoples to Christianity.

Fish and Fur

Fish is hung up to dry in the sun

Early explorers were amazed at the natural resources in Canada. They fished the waters off Newfoundland, salted the fish and dried it in the sun, then shipped the fish back to Europe to help feed the people there.

Gold nugget

Canada’s huge trees provided lots of timber for European ships and buildings. Explorers also found gold, silver, and other precious minerals here.

Fur traders sent thousands of furs back to Europe from Canada. The skins were thick and glossy and in great supply.

New Adventure

People today are curious about the world around them, and so were the early European explorers. They had no maps when they first set out, but they wondered what was on the other side of the ocean. These brave explorers wanted to see what adventures—and riches!—they might find in new countries.

Now, show what you know!

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