The first European settlements to be established on the North American continent belonged to the Vikings. The Icelandic born, Norwegian by descent, Viking captain Leif Eriksson established the first European settlement, called Vinland, on the coast of what is now the Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador (in or about the year 1000 AD). For unexplained reasons, the Vikings did not stay for very long nor did they explore a significant portion of territory outside of their settled areas. By the year 1004, AD they had abandoned Vinland and Europe's first territorial foothold in North America. One possible explanation states the Vikings did not get along with the local Aboriginal peoples and were in a state of constant, often bloody, conflict with them.
The Viking discovery of North America did not become common knowledge in Europe and many countries chose to ignore or were unaware of its significance. It was not until the rediscovery of the continent by Christopher Columbus in 1492 AD that the Europeans became truly aware of, and interested in, the new world. Even though Columbus was working for the country of Spain at the time of the rediscovery of North America, he is believed to be Italian in origin (but that has never been firmly established).
After Columbus rediscovered the new world many European explorers began to explore and map it, and many European kingdoms attempted to establish colonial settlements on the continent. The three most successful, but not only, colonizing kingdoms were England, France and Spain.
The first permanent settlements in what is now Canada were established by France. Port Royal was established in 1604 AD in what is now the province of Nova Scotia. In spite of some instances of conflict the French, unlike the Vikings, managed to establish cooperative relations with some of the Aboriginal peoples thus holding territories in the areas of colonial settlement. These cooperative relations proved to be of great benefit to the colonists, particularly in the areas of economics, security and exploration. The colonists developed trade with the local Aboriginal peoples. Perhaps the most notable and famous aspect of this trade relationship dealt with the fur trade. They also formed military alliances with some of the Aboriginal peoples. For example, during the various French-English wars of the 17th and 18th centuries the Huron people were allied with the French while the Iroquois, the traditional enemies of the Huron, were allies of the English. The colonists also quickly recognized the value of obtaining the assistance of the Aboriginal people in exploring the vast terrain of the new world. The Aboriginal people knew their territories very well as they already had established communities, trade and travel routes.
Without the numerous contributions made by the Aboriginal people the exploration, mapping and settlement of the vast territories that are now Canada would have taken immeasurably longer.