09/26/2013 04:29 EDT | Updated 11/26/2013 05:12 EST

Saskatchewan tops 1.1 million people for first time, largely due to immigration

REGINA - Premier Brad Wall says international immigration is a huge part of Saskatchewan's latest population boom.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of people living in the province has passed the 1.1 million mark for the first time.

That's an increase of 20,757 people in the past year and more than 106,000 people since 2007.

The premier says the new goal is to have 1.2 million people by 2020.

He says the economy is drawing people to Saskatchewan for jobs and helping to keep new graduates in the province.

The premier also says better immigration policies helped.

"We've got to keep our eyes focused on that because we need newcomers as well, not just for the economy and the labour shortage, but because it makes us better," Wall said Thursday.

"I love all the accents."

Amol Cheema is one of those newcomers who has settled in Saskatchewan.

Cheema, who is originally from India, was in university in Toronto when a couple of his friends moved to Saskatchewan. He followed in 2011.

"They said it was a good province, lots of opportunities, so I came here," Cheema said at a gathering for newcomers Thursday at the legislature.

He said it's been great, except for the "really harsh" winter, which Cheema jokes that he's getting used to.

Cheema, 27, is working as a civilian with the Regina police. He hopes to become an officer when his permanent residency paperwork is complete.

Cheema said he "absolutely" sees himself staying in Saskatchewan for the long-term.

"I love it here," he said.

"It's the same like my province where I came from (in India), it's an agriculture province as well. It's like life is kind of relaxed, you're not rushing to your job. It takes five minutes to go to work. And then I got this opportunity, and I think as an immigrant it's my responsibility to serve the people of Saskatchewan and the people of Canada."